“Girls from disadvantaged backgrounds miss up to 50 days of school a year because they do not have access to sanitary pads.” This is according to an article titled “School to supply pads” (The New Age, 07/02/2017, p.5) selected as this week’s GLAD.
The story by Charlote Hlangwane reports how a Gauteng secondary school has taken the initiative of distributing free sanitary pads to female pupils to ensure that they do not miss school during menstruation.
According to the article, pupils “were relieved and happy about the initiative taken by the school…” One of the pupils quoted in the story says, “I learnt about menstruation and how to use sanitary pads when (I started having a period) during my primary school years. When I first saw my period, my mum was working night shift and I called her to say I needed sanitary pads then left work to come advise me on steps to take.”
Another pupils says, “I was scared to tell my mum because back in the townships when you talk to your mum about menstruation, the first thing she thinks is that you have started participating in sexual activities.”
Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) commends The New Age for making an effort to highlight topics that are rarely talked about. MMA also appreciates that children’s voices are added to the article as doing so does not only enrich the story with children’s perspectives but also empowers them to exercise their right to freedom of expression.
The New Age also made efforts to access experts who were able to provide context, further highlighting how this issue affects girls and their education. One of the people quoted in the article is Liza Trollie of Innovative Solutions Group (ISG) who says, “There are reports of girls missing school during menstruation because they come from homes that cannot afford to buy them sanitary towels each month”. According to the article, other than ISG, Gatanang Secondary School is also partnering with an organization called Mimi Women to provide this assistance.
MMA’s Editorial Guidelines and Principles for Reporting on Children in the Media encourage the media to include children’s views in matters that affect them. The New Age adhered to these guidelines.
We would like to encourage The New Age to continue reporting such topics as all issues that compromise children’s education need to be brought to light so they can be dealt with by relevant stakeholders. We also urge the publication to keep adding children’s voices where necessary. MMA also urges other media to emulate The New Age’s efforts.
By Msizi Mzolo
 A GLAD is an article where the rights and welfare of children have been protected
The following is the response by The New Age to the commentary
It is an indictment on all of us that the dignity of the girl child, particularly in rural areas continues, to be compromised because they cannot access sanitary towels.
In some areas girls miss as much as 50 days of schools a year rather than face the indignity of going to class during their menstrual cycle.
We feel it is important to highlight the importance of ensuring that every girl child has access to sanitary towels and The New Age will remain at the the forefront of drawing attention to the challenges of the girl child and other vulnerable groups.